//‘Police paid hush money for lock-up death’

‘Police paid hush money for lock-up death’

TIRUVARUR, Tamil Nadu: Crime one: lock-up death. Follow-up: a bid to hush it up. Relatives of a 40-year-old person say men in khaki paid them Rs 2.5 lakh to hush up his death in police custody. When Express visited the victim’s house recently, A Lakshmanan’s family in Valangaiman taluk broke their coerced silence.

Trouble started for the family of Lakshmanan this mid-summer when his 11-year-old son L Mukesh’s friend Iyyappan, a petty thief in their Pazhaiya Senai street neighbourhood, pointed fingers at them when the local police quizzed him on a spate of robberies in the area.

On June 17, police took Mukesh to Amm­apettai police station. Torture for the next two days “forced” him to confess his father’s “involvement” in certain crimes. Soon, Lakshmanan, who eked out a living by polishing brass vessels, was picked along with his 14-year-old son Kalidas, and some of their household articles were reportedly seized.

Lakshmanan was subjected to the “third degree”, his boys were “beaten up”. Kalidas was let off on June 21, while his uncle Kumar was picked up four days later. Kumar says a “traumatised” Lakshmanan bluffed he had hidden the jewels “here and there”.

In the wee hours of June 27, Kumar woke up to “find Lakshmanan missing”. The police broke open the toilet door, and “found him inside, hanging from his dhoti”. The family was summoned to the pol­ice station. Kumar was made to sign papers that stated Lakshmanan was released the previous night, and shame led him to hang himself from a tree at the station premises.

Chinks in the story led the police later to “cover up” the issue. Kumar was given

Rs 1.8 lakh, and promised another Rs 70,000. They freed Mukesh, along with Kumar, and “have even assured Shanti a job”.

Testimony of torture

“Five policemen encircled me and repeatedly asked me if I had stolen the jewels. I told them I knew nothing about the thefts. They kept on caning me…on my knuckles, back, stomach, knees and palms,” L Mukesh told Express. “The police abused my parents, especially my mot­her…filthy language,” he said. “They hanged my father and me upside down and branded the palm of our feet with hot iron rods.” “They lifted me and hit me on the floor. I was made to stand against the wall with my hands up and they hit me down.” This is the testimony of torture of a 11-year-old boy, on whose ‘confession’ his father was taken into illegal custody. Mukesh and brother Kalidas are since displaying behavioural disorders, says their grandmother S Vasantha. “Especially, when Mukesh’s mother accuses him of being responsible for his father’s death…he dashes his head against the wall, breaks things.” The family enrolled him in a hostel, but he refused to stay there.

R. Guhambika, 5 Sep 2009, ExpressBuzz.COM